Former Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Youth Wing leader and businessman, Lesang Magang has this week officially announced his decision to contest for the party’s prestigious position as Secretary General, at the party’s next elective congress billed for July 2021.
Magang told WeekendPost this week after lobbying from democrats and also as a result of his own reflection, he has offered himself to serve in the position.
The former Youth Wing leader said, out of respect, he has also reached out to President Mokgweetsi Masisi, to inform him of his decision.
“He is the party leader. And out of respect and also since we share the philosophy of transforming the country and party, I have sought his audience. I will not go into much detail on this save to say I have massive respect for his desire not to divide the party by engaging in formation of lobbyists though some people had tried to misrepresent him on this score,” Magang told WeekendPost.
“I had served the party really well in my youth and I thought it’s time to come back. All that experience in business and politics is now required by the country and party. We live in critical times whereas the BDP we need to transform to survive. And I am a transformational leader. I would want to be part of leading the transformation of this party alongside a President who has clearly voiced his desire for transformation or party and country.”
Unlike the previous congress where the chairmanship defined the congress, the position as Secretary General will be the most sought after position. Vice President, Slumber Tsogwane is unlikely to be challenged for the Chairman position.
However, Mpho Balopi, who is the incumbent Secretary General has not attracted the same luck, as a number of democrats intends to challenge him for the position.
Magang, who is the son of former cabinet minister, David Magang, indicated that the 2021 congress, the first since 2017, would be critical in the sense that the soul and future of the party may be at stake.
“It will mark a turning point for the party in that the leadership so elected will be responsible for preparing us immediately for the 2024 general election. Before then even, the leadership elected will have to rebuild structures, fix Bulela Ditswe and foster trust and integrity in our primary election and internal systems. In short, we will need to rebuild the confidence of our members in our systems so as to survive 2024 and extend our rule.”
Having served in the party structures before — including the Central Committee during the presidency of Sir Ketumile Masire and Festus Mogae — Magang believes such experience will come handy in helping the party to consolidate its power.
“I know the heart and soul of the party like the back of my hand. I know how we used to do things yet am equipped with how things ought to happen today and for the future,” he said.
“I have seen the party grow, fall and rise again. And all that experience I can use to help President Masisi transform the party to position it for the future as he has rightly pledged to do. For instance, when I speak of building structures it’s something I’ve done before- we’ve crisscrossed the country before being hosted by Democrats to help mobilize and build structures and we made it mad fun.”
Despite not participating in the 2013 and 2018 party primaries after an unsuccessful bid in 2008, Magang contend that he has always been serving the party behind the scenes.
He said it is during this time that he had the luxury of reflecting and also preparing for the next political involvement within the party.
“When I was not leading at the front I was an active follower that assisted in the campaigns of others. For instance, I served in the BDP Communications and International Relations Committee before and was also a manifesto champion for the party in the run up to the 2019 general election,” he argued.
“I would say then that spending time being led and not being on the front leading has shaped my thinking. I have learnt to listen more, I have learnt to follow. And they say the best lessons in leadership include learning to follow.”
ON IMPLEMENTATION OF BDP MANIFESTO
With the party’s victory in the 2019 general election partly on the basis of its pledges in the manifesto, BDP face the tough task of delivering its promises, which include among others reviewing the country’s constitution and Citizen Economic Empowerment (CEE).
“The party must govern. We have a very good system in place where we keep a large professional civil service but the BDP is held accountable every five years. So we need the party to hold government accountable,” he said.
“Through the office of the Secretary General, we need to continuously have the party position being made clear such that our pledges are always top of mind.”
Magang argued that the party should also support government programmes which in essence are party programmes.
“The party must proudly use its structures to promote uptake of government programmes in order for people to benefit. Many of our people could do with benefiting from government programmes,” he said.
“Without being unfair or side-lining the opposition, we must have people in our structures and our members being assisted to enrol in government programmes. Mananeo a puso a tshwanetse a bonelwa mo madomkrageng mme re sa dire botsotsi bope fela, re rotloetsa re bo re rutuntsha botlhe mo pontsheng.”
Magang believes the constitutional review forms key components of BDP’s transformation pledge and said it is necessary for the party to ensure that it happens.
“It is absolutely critical. Our constitution has served as well, but we must review it in order to take the next giant leap for our development and democracy. I am proud that this is a key BDP pledge and one we intend to make happen.”
REBUILDING THE PARTY
BDP suffered two splits in the last 10 years, a development which has seen the party losing its status as invincible, and many observers believes the party could soon go past its glory days.
“The BDP of our forefathers was more than just a political party. It was an organization of people who were friends from all over our country, people who missed getting together again in song and conferences. It was as much a party as it was a brotherhood/sisterhood in which everyone felt they were welcome and had a place,” he said.
“This mentality penetrated even to our party structures. Structures existed and were strong because there was fellowship, and they were also adequately monitored and engaged. The structures held their own activities regularly. In so many places, our structures ran activities that became entertainment platforms for people to look forward to. We need to urgently get back to building structures that are not only visible before congress or primary elections.
“This way, we will not easily split. The spirit of being democrats would prevail and we all would also know that one needs not have power at all costs.
“We have problems because sometimes people feel the need to win at all costs that they resort to even cheating to win- and some have previously even been facilitated by leadership to cheat. Bulela ditswe is a prime example. This cannot be fair and only leads to infighting.”
For so many years, Botswana has been trying to be a self-sufficient country that is able to provide its citizens with locally produced food products. Through appropriate collaborations with parastatals such as CEDA, ISPAAD and LEA, government introduced initiatives such as the Horticulture Impact Accelerator Subsidy-IAS and other funding facilities to facilitate horticultural farmers to increase production levels.
Now that COVID-19 took over and disrupted the food value chain across all economies, Botswana government introduced these initiatives to reduce the import bill by enhancing local market and relieve horticultural farmers from loses or impacts associated with the pandemic.
In more concerted efforts to curb these food crises in the country, government extended the ploughing period for the Southern part of Botswana. The extension was due to the late start of rains in the Southern part of the country.
Last week the Ministry of Agriculture extended the ploughing period for the Northern part of the country, mainly because of rains recently experienced in the country. With these decisions taken urgently, government optimizes food security and reliance on local food production.
When pigs fly, Botswana will be able to produce food to feed its people. This is evident by the numbers released by Statistics Botswana on imports recorded in November 2020, on their International Merchandise Trade Statistics for the month under review.
The numbers say Botswana continues to import most of its food from neighbouring South Africa. Not only that, Batswana relies on South Africa to have something to smoke, to drink and even use as machinery.
According to data from Statistics Botswana, the country’s total imports amounted to P6.881 Million. Diamonds contributed to the total imports at 33%, which is equivalent to P2.3 Million. This was followed by food, beverages and tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment which stood at P912 Million and P790 Million respectively.
Most of these commodities were imported from The Southern African Customs Union (SACU). The Union supplied Botswana with imports valued at over P4.8 Million of Botswana’s imports for the month under review (November 2020). The top most imported commodity group from SACU region was food, beverages and tobacco, with a contribution of P864 Million, which is likely to be around 18.1% of the total imports from the region.
Diamonds and fuel, according to these statistics, contributed 16.0%, or P766 Million and 13.5% or P645 Million respectively. Botswana also showed a strong and desperate reliance on neighbouring South Africa for important commodities. Even though the borders between the two countries in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, government took a decision to open border gates for essential services which included the transportation of commodities such as food.
Imports from South Africa recorded in November 2020 stood at P4.615 Million, which accounted for 67.1% of total imports during the month under review. Still from that country, Botswana bought food, beverages and tobacco worth P844 Million (18.3%), diamonds, machinery and fuel worth P758 Million, P601 Million and P562 Million respectively.
Botswana also imported chemicals and rubber products that made a contribution of 11.7% (P542.2 Million) to total imports from South Africa during the month under review, (November 2020).
The European Union also came to Botswana’s rescue in the previous year. Botswana received imports worth P698.3 Million from the EU, accounting for 10.1% of the total imports during the same month. The major group commodity imported from the EU was diamonds, accounting for 86.9% (P606.6 Million), of imports from the Union. Belgium was the major source of imports from the EU, at 8.9% (P609.1 Million) of total imports during the period under review.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance and Economic Development Thapelo Matsheka says an improvement in exports and commodity prices will drive growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Growth in the region is anticipated to recover modestly to 3.2% in 2021. Matsheka said this when delivering the Annual Budget Speech virtually in Gaborone on the 1st of February 2021.
He said implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA), which became operational in January 2021, could reduce the region’s vulnerability to global disruptions, as well as deepen trade and economic integration.
“This could also help boost competition and productivity. Successful implementation of AfCFTA will, of necessity, require Member States to eliminate both tariffs and non-tariff barriers, and generally make it easier to do business and invest across borders.”
Matsheka, who is also a Member of Parliament for Lobatse, an ailing town which houses the struggling biggest meat processing company in the country- Botswana Meat Commission, (BMC), said the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) recognizes the need to prioritize the key processes required for the implementation of the AfCFTA.
“The revised SACU Tariff Offer, which comprises 5,988 product lines with agreed Rules of Origin, representing 77% of the SACU Tariff Book, was submitted to the African Union Commission (AUC) in November 2020. The government is in the process of evaluating the tariff offers of other AfCFTA members prior to ratification, following which Botswana’s participation in AfCFTA will come to effect.”
Women continue to shadow men in politics – stereotypes such as ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’ cast the notion that women cannot lead. The 2019 general election recorded one of Botswana’s worst performances when it comes to women participation in parliamentary democracy with only three women elected to parliament.
Botswana’s former Minister of Health, Professor Sheila Tlou who is currently the Co-Chair, Global HIV Prevention Coalition & Nursing Now and an HIV, Gender & Human Rights Activist is not amused by the status quo. Tlou attributes this dilemma facing women to a number of factors, which she is convinced influence the voting patterns of Batswana when it comes to women politicians.
Professor Tlou plugs the party level voting systems as the first hindrance that blocks women from ascending to power. According to the former Minister of Health, there is inadequate amount of professionalism due to corrupt internal party structures affecting the voters roll and ultimately leading to voter apathy for those who end up struck off the voters rolls under dubious circumstances.
Tlou also stated that women’s campaigns are often clean; whilst men put to play the ‘politics is dirty metaphor using financial muscle to buy voters into voting for them without taking into consideration their abilities and credibility. The biggest hurdle according to Tlou is the fallacy that ‘Women cannot lead’, which is also perpetuated by other women who discourage people from voting for women.
There are numerous factors put on the table when scrutinizing a woman, she can be either too old, or too young, or her marital status can be used against her. An unmarried woman is labelled as a failure and questioned on how she intends on being a leader when she failed to have a home. The list is endless including slut shaming women who have either been through a divorce or on to their second marriages, Tlou observed.
The only way that voters can be emancipated from this mentality according to Tlou is through a robust voter education campaign tailor made to run continuously and not be left to the eve of elections as it is usually done. She further stated that the current crop of women in parliament must show case their abilities and magnify them – this will help make it clear that they too are worthy of votes.
And to women intending to run for office, Tlou encouraged them not to wait for the eleventh hour to show their interest and rather start in community mobilisation projects as early as possible so that the constituents can get to know them and their abilities prior to the election date.
Youthful Botswana National Front (BNF) leader and feminist, Resego Kgosidintsi blames women’s mentality towards one another which emanates from the fact that women have been socialised from a tender age that they cannot be leaders hence they find it difficult to vote for each other.
Kgosidintsi further states that, “Women do not have enough economic resources to stage effective campaigns. They are deemed as the natural care givers and would rather divert their funds towards raising children and building homes over buying campaign materials.”
Meanwhile, Vice President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP), Wynter Mmolotsi agrees that women’s participation in politics in Botswana remains a challenge. To address this Mmolotsi suggested that there should be constituencies reserved for women candidates only so that the outcome regardless of the party should deliver a woman Member of Parliament.
Mmolotsi further suggested that Botswana should ditch the First Past the Post system of election and opt for the proportional representation where contesting parties will dutifully list able women as their representatives in parliament.
On why women do not get elected, Mmolotsi explained that he had heard first hand from voters that they are reluctant to vote for women since they have limited access to them once they have won; unlike their male counterparts who have proven to be available night or day.
The pre-historic awarding of gender roles relegating women to be pregnant and barefoot at home and the man to be out there fending for the family has disadvantaged women in political and other professional careers.